Ever since Pamela Jones shut down Groklaw and announced she was not only abandoning the site but quitting the Internet entirely in light of the Edward Snowden revelations, I’ve been thinking about this.
At the time, though I found her reasons poignant and pertinent, I thought she was overreacting. Now, I don’t know.
Personally, I’m not on the verge of quitting. A big part of my life is here. And all of my career (such as it is) is here. That’s been true since 1986 when a client bought me my first 300-baud modem and set it up so I could electronically submit stories to him. It was certainly true in 1993 when I met my Significant Sweetie (now ex, but still friend) on a FIDOnet gun-rights bulletin board. It’s definitely true now when I’d likely starve to death and blow away without the ‘Net.
Still, I think most of us (and most notably a lot of tech types hereabouts) feel the temptation.
We’ve always been independent sorts around here. We avoid being messed with by power trippers. If we can’t avoid, we “mess back.” But right now, there’s nothing we can do to counter the electronic offenses being committed against us and against freedom by the UberGoverment whose all-probing eye peers out from Mordor on the Potomac.
Oh, sure, we can play the old “keyword” game with our emails. (There’s even a new Firefox/Chrome browser add-on to let us do the same thing with URLs and HTTP headers now.) That’s fun. And it’s always true that irritating and misdirecting the bastards is worthwile, even (or perhaps especially) as tyranny grows. We can also use GPG, dump Windows for Linux, use TOR, etc. etc. etc. And eventually heroic tech wizards may save us — and the Internet — from NSAuron.
But now …? Now …? Now we seem to be faced with using dodges that may or may not help or simply shrugging and going on because, realistically, there’s not much else to do. So …
Would you quit the Internet? If so, what would you do instead? If not, how do you adapt to knowing that everything you do online (or on the phone) is probably recorded and analyzed, even if it then disappears into the maw of a datacenter’s godzillabyte storage capacity, never to be seen again?
Now, that said, I’m “quitting the Internet” for the next three days. I may pop in to post some cute dog pictures tomorrow, and I’ll check in to moderate comments at least once a day. Otherwise, I’m away for a bit from the Bad News Net.
So, is the movie of Ender’s Game going to be good? The trailer has possibilities. But I was never a fan of the book. Sorry, Orson Scott Card; you always put me to sleep. Doesn’t look like a sleepy film, though.
Anybody hereabouts use Jitsi? A friend’s working on a project with it and recommended it. But I don’t do any of the things it’s noted for (online chat, video or VOIP calls), so I dunno. He says it’s got super-good encryption.
The idea is to be able to carry a vast store of resources anywhere and access it on even some pretty inadequate equipment. (Yes, paper would be even more accessible in primitive conditions — if we weren’t talking about such a huge volume.)
Mark (aka GreyLocke), who’s been pulling this together, has pretty comprehensive instructions at the link above.
I’ve queried him about access to the library for people who may not want to deal with the tech stuff. Will let you know if I hear more.
ADDED: Heard from Mark. Here’s the link to the main directory of project files.
But just to have the files available on a drive, they either download the zip files from the CD3WD site, there are I believe 48 of them now each are around 300 to 360 MB each, they would then need to be unzipped and the install batch file run.
I find it a lot easier to just use the ISO files and the torrent. I can set bit torrent to download the files for me while I go about my day. After they are downloaded I personally used ISO Buster to just write the files to my hard drive then install them. They now reside in their own directories on my main drive and all 3 of my back up
drives,and as of now 4 of the KTD thumb drives.
Hm. Maybe somebody could make a little money (or at least do a preparedness public service project) by making up KTD sticks and selling them to the less technically ept?
I’m just mucking around, changing operating systems again.
My old laptop (running Linux Mint 11) headed toward slow death a month or two ago. I eBayed myself a newer ThinkPad and upgraded (or so I thought) to Mint 12.
I’ve been loving Linux Mint since version 8 or so, and I guess I’m not alone in that since it’s risen from nowhere to become one of the top Linuxes, if not the top Linux, for real people. Love its media friendliness!
But 11 had problems. Not the Mint team’s fault, but there were some new Ubuntu features they got stuck with (hidden slider bars that you can’t see until you’ve moused over them — and moused over them in just exactly the right way — was a very, very, very bad idea). (Okay, they’re scroll bars, as everybody in the comment section is reminding me very diplomatically. I don’t care what they’re called, as long as they work properly.)
Alas, although Mint 12 (and I presume the version of Ubuntu it’s based on) killed off the dreadful catch-us-if-you-can sliders, in other ways it, too, is not ready for prime time.
Again, it seems to be not the Mint team’s fault. Just as Mint is tethered to Ubuntu, it’s also tethered to Gnome, a heretofore marvelous GUI (aka desktop management system; with Linux, unlike Windows, there are several options for the user interface; sometimes users get a choice, sometimes developers make the decision). This time the Gnome team made some rocky decisions. Like the folks who thought hiding the slider bars was an “improvement,” they decided to get too clever for their or their users’ own good. They removed basic functionality (like actually being able to place tasks on the now-misnamed task bar) in favor of a bunch of jumpy jazz.
There’s also the problem of the OS briefly, from time-to-time, consuming all system resources so the computer turns into a snoozing tortoise. There’s a workaround for that. But I don’t want a workaround. I want an operating system that’s smooth and un-annoying right out of the box.
I’ve been using Mint 12 for about a month and am thoroughly irked by its quirks. I expect Mint 13, later this year, will once again be a primo, terrific Linux. They’re addressing every one of the main problems, and the underlying OS is really a great thing. But right now … just not ready for real-user prime time.
Fortunately, at the same time I ordered the Mint 12 DVD, I also bought Mandriva 2011.
Mandriva was the first Linux to aim for real-people friendliness, and was my long-time Linux love. Then they dug themselves a big hole for a few years (are you seeing a pattern here?) and the media-friendly Mint galloped past them.
Anyhow, that’s the long way of saying that I’m about to back up the system and all my data and replace Linux Mint 12 with Mandriva 2011.
If all goes well, you won’t even notice I’m gone. If it doesn’t … don’t worry. The feds probably haven’t carried me off. Yet. More likely I just hit some wrong button. Or several.
And please don’t take any of this as saying that Linux has gone bad for us ordinary, non-geek users. Thing is with Linux, if one version goes wrong, you can try another — for a free download, a $2 CD, or a $6 DVD. You can even try it via a “live” CD or DVD to make sure you like it before committing to an installation.
When Windows goes wrong, OTOH (ME or Vista, anyone?), you’re just plain stuck.
Speaking of Windows, though: the new ThinkPad came with a new, hot version of M$ Windows, Windows 7 Ultimate, pre-installed. I must admit, it’s a pretty slick OS.
Since setting the new computer up to dual-boot Windows and Linux Mint, I haven’t used the former. But before installing Mint, I plinked around with Windows for a week or so and almost persuaded myself I could like it.
… Except, of course, for the conviction that I was being spied on (or potentially spied on) with every click of the mouse.
It’s really beautiful, though, and highly intuitive to use. I hate to say it but … “Nice job, Microsoft.”
I installed Linux Mint 11 last night. And this morning. And again this morning. I think I’m done now.
I’ve been using Linux Mint for several years and just loving it. It’s the most stable, most newbie-friendly, most media friendly Linux I know. Release 7 was terrific, 8 even better — and there I happily stayed until I began having browser woes. I knew there could be hassles jumping three versions forward, but Mint is so friendly I wasn’t worried.
First time I tried to install, it insisted on a username and password long before any had been set. It hinted that the username it wanted was “mint,” but no password in the ‘verse would appease it.
After researching and finding others having the same problem — but no one having a solution — I restarted and tried again. This time it didn’t ask for any impossible information. Guess it decided I was okay.
However this time, though a combo of my own brain fart and one of Mint’s new features (really, if you’re going to have slider bars that hide until somebody mouses over them, you really ought to tell the n00bs that’s what they have to do to access additional configuration options), I screwed up the install by not mounting all my quirky little partitions.
Third time, I got the partitions right, and thought everything was just hunky-dory and nifty-zorch — until I was configuring email and noticed that the @ key was typing ” . And yes, the ” key was typing @. And the pound (#) key was typing pound as in British money, despite my having definitely chosen the standard U.S. keyboard.
Fourth time I finally got good old Mint — complete with all (or nearly all) of my saved configurations. Yay!
The only thing that gave me real trouble is the Thunderbird mail reader. Mint 11 comes with T’bird 3.1.9 (which is far from being the latest release, but seems to be the latest stable Debian package). And T’bird 3.1.9 sucks is a seriously mixed bag. It’s not only filled with crazy quirks (like insisting that some, but not all, “sent” folders be subfolders of the inbox), but in the name of Windows-type automation, it makes it darned near impossible to custom-configure server settings.
Its autoconfigure feature is theoretically cool; but once it decides it wants you to use IMAP servers, not POP3s servers (which it always does, even when IMAP servers might not be available), then you’re going to use IMAP servers (and therefore you’re going to have separate inboxes for each and every one of your dozens of email addresses) even if you opt to configure manually. The only way to avoid it, apparently, is to erase any mail account you just created, click to create a new account, then hit STOP! as quick as you can before the autoconfigure process starts.
Please tell me they got rid of that in later versions of the app. I’ll be watching for new .deb packages.
Anyhow, the short version of the story is that I’m back in business, with only a few deadly email glitches still to work out.
Oh yeah. And Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II was really good. Not great (I don’t think any of the Potter films qualify as great), but one of the best and definitely a fitting, whiz-bang, beautiful, touching conclusion to a remarkable series. Voldemort … positively Shakespearian. Nigel … comes valiantly into his own. Minerva McGonagall … steals the show with her couple of tiny scenes. Snape … no wonder viewers made him the winner of the Harry Potter World Cup. And Ron, Hermoine, and Harry … what can you say? Even if not one of the movies rose to Lord of the Rings level, it’s a pretty amazing thing to have made eight so good, with the final being among the best.
I’m headed to another town to pick up a foster dog. I’m not ready for this. I told the local group I’d start fostering this summer, but things have been so unsettled I was considering ways to weasel out of my commitment. This is such a sad case, though. I couldn’t say no.
The incoming dog is a nine-year-old who’s bouncing back to the group because a placement made six years ago has gone sour. The dog, a female black Lab mix, was very much loved. Then the adopter had babies, and “Betsy” never took to them. Eighteen months ago, Betsy bit one of the kids (under circumstances that even the mom says were understandable). The adopter cared enough to work with a dog behaviorist. She tried her best, but Betsy just never adjusted to the children.
The local group is no-kill. But that’s a term of art that means “no adoptable animal will be euthanized.” Dogs with intractable behavior problems or health conditions sometimes have to be put down. With her age and history, Betsy is probably not adoptable. So we’ll see. Permanent foster care is the other most likely option.
The two girls in my pack, who’ve never particularly liked each other, have been pissy to the point of drawing blood lately. Adding another female is going to be … like the seventh grade all over again, I fear.
The one bright spot is Robbie who, after 10 years of being Mr. Dog-Aggressive Bully Boy, has suddenly decided to mellow out and accept that other canines have a right to exist — and that other dogs might even occasionally be likable.
Anyhow, that’s my story. And here’s some miscellany for you while I wander off:
Even without a zombie attack this house is pretty cool. (BTW, are you ready for the end of the world? Don’t forget, it’ll be here May 21. Be sure you’re wearing clean underwear that day.)
Amazing, astonishing, astounding how excellent “amateur” computer animation has become. Two (each about 10 minutes) from the same open-source source: “Big Buck Bunny” (who’s mellow and laid back until a pack of butterfly-murdering squirrels rouse his ire) and well … this one is just odd. But beautifully odd. Disney, step aside. And you, too, Tim Burton, while we’re at it.
No doubt, they’d love to. No doubt, if uber-authoritarian Joe Lieberman has his way, they’ll set up a plan to do exactly that. But is it possible? Or is this just more wishful thinking from powermad damnfools who believe the Internet is “a series of tubes”?
Denny Hansen, my editor at S.W.A.T. magazine, has asked me to write an article on that subject.
I have opinions. But they’re of the “everybody has one” variety. I have a little bit of knowledge. But I know this blog is read by people who have better opinions and more knowledge on technical matters than I. So mind if I pick your brains? I’ll gladly give credit in print (if you want it) to knowledgeable readers who offer solid info. Or opinions based on solid info.
I know the standard freedomista response is, “Ha ha, they can’t do it! The Internet is built to route around damage.” True, to a certain extent. But if the plan is to order ISPs, search engines, and other corporate site owners to shut down or shut off certain functions “in an emergency,” that’s a donkey of a different species. And what about URLs? Isn’t the ‘Net’s centralized naming system vulnerable to political tyranny and underhandedness? Sites have been kicked offline before simply by having their domain names abruptly de-registered, right? Couldn’t a government just do it, or order it done, en masse?
So, geek-genius readers, what would the effect on the ‘Net really be if the .gov decided it wanted to rule the ‘Net — “for the children” or “to fight the thread of global cyber terrorism” or to “halt domestic terrorists”? Would key sites simply move (or clone themselves) offshore to avoid being subject to political orders? Would too many of the Big Boys like Google yield to pressure? Is the whole idea of a “kill switch” simply bogus? Or would a kill switch be at least partly effective? Or would the fedgov, if it so wished, really shut down or cripple major functions?
If so, how would commerce be affected? How would you talk with your friends in China or Iran if a president ordered ISPs to stop accepting traffic to and from such places? And how would non-geeks function? I mean, I know you smart guys have a million ways to “route around” government damage; in that way, the old claim is true and glory hallelujah. But what about Jo and Joe average? Could their Divine Political Rulers really pull the “kill switch” on them?
Tell me. Tell the world. Tell the comments section, if you’re willing. Links to great sources appreciated. If you have serious expertise but you’d rather tell me your thoughts privately, just say so in the comments and I’ll contact you via email.
“Disrespect for Government is as American as Fried Bananas.” LRC.com ran this article last week. It’s about contrasts between Latin American attitudes and U.S. American attitudes toward government and law. Thing is, the folks down south know their governments are corrupt and dangerous. So they don’t give them any respect — and also don’t favor using them to harass or manipulate their neighbors. A lot of people (me included) shudder at the thought of living in some country where police expect bribes and politicians are nakedly corrupt. But there’s a darned good argument in favor of such places.
And finally, just to get your weekend off to an extra cheery start, that Active Denial pain ray we’ve been hearing about for years has finally made it into Afghanistan. You can be sure it’ll win hearts and minds when the U.S. fedgov starts microwaving women, children, and old men.